Pitches for continuing with tight monetary policies to help curb inflation

Barring inflation which continues to remain the government's “priority” concern, the Economic Survey 2010-11 on Friday painted quite a rosy macroeconomic scenario projecting a robust GDP (gross domestic product) expansion of nine per cent (+/- 0.25%) next fiscal — reverting to the pre-global crisis growth levels even in the wake of downside risks emerging from the current spike in oil prices owing to turmoil in the Arab world.

In almost a copy-book estimation of the economic environment as presented by the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) in its ‘Review of the Economy' and the measures prescribed to tackle the hitches impeding faster growth, the Survey pitched for continuing with tight monetary policies to help curb inflation and mitigate global risks arising from hike in food and commodity prices and debt problems in the Euro zone.

Tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the pre-budget Economic Survey, like the PMEAC, also favoured a gradual rollback of the stimulus measures which were extended to industry to combat the slowdown that had set in following the global financial crisis in 2008-09.

Underscoring that inflation clearly still remained the “dominant” concern, the Survey stressed that “current growth and inflation trend warrant persistence with an anti-inflationary monetary stance” along with consolidation of the fiscal deficit which was essential to check price rise.

In his comments in this regard soon after tabling the economic report card prepared by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) in his Ministry, Mr. Mukherjee said: “Inflation is a matter of great concern, no doubt. Just one year ago in February 2010, food inflation was as high as 20.2 per cent...though it is high it has come down in January...still it is an area of concern and we shall have to work on it, particularly in the context of the global economic crisis.”

High deficit

Apart from identifying the spike in global crude oil prices, owing to political upheavals in West Asia, and the Euro zone debt problems as downside risks, the Survey also highlighted the high current account deficit stemming from the fragile global recovery impacting the country's exports along with the increase in domestic consumption as another area of concern.

“The problem may be further aggravated by the rising international oil prices,” it said.

Stating that the economy would grow by 8.6 per cent during the current fiscal, up from eight per cent a year ago, the Survey said: “It is expected that the growth will breach the 9 per cent mark in 2011-12.”

However, for this to happen, it suggested a slew of reforms which include streamlining of land acquisition and environmental clearance norms so as to speed up planning and implementation of infrastructure projects, these being a crucial driver of overall economic growth.

FDI in retail

The Survey made out a case for gradual opening of the foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, in metro cities to start with.

“FDI in retail may help bring in technical knowhow to set up efficient supply chains which could act as models of development,” it said.

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